Now that the shock (and yes, I do think we should agree that it was somewhat shocking) of Carolina's demolishing of Troy yesterday afternoon has subsided, it's time to take account of the spoils as they now stand for the season. The victory marks the first eight-win season since 2006 and the first with the wins coming in the regular season since 2001. As I'm sure you remember the guys calling the game yesterday reminding you, this is only the tenth time overall that we've done this since we began playing football in the 1890s. Carolina is currently ranked 18th / 17th in the AP / Coaches polls, which puts us at second and first, respectively, in terms of how AQ teams with three losses rank. This is the highest we've ranked going into the Clemson game since 1987, when we were ranked 12th and would beat the Tigers 20-7 in Columbia; Carolina was ranked 22nd in 2001, when we also won, the last time we were ranked heading into the game. This will be the best chance we've had to finish the season ranked since 2001. Lastly, of course, we have the prizes we won last week in tow: an Eastern Division Title, a shot at the SEC crown, our first season beating each of the East's "Big Three," etc.
With all that said, what do we have to do from here forward to consider this season successful? I said before the season that, at the very least, that I wanted to see a nine-win regular season but might consider eight wins success depending on the circumstances. At that point, I simply hoped we'd get a shot at the Eastern Division Title, and, due to Florida's struggles, that we did, and we won it, too. I would have never thought that we would earn a spot in Atlanta with a 5-3 SEC record and a loss to Kentucky, but I guess it's been that sort of season in the East.
At any rate, at this point I think I need to revise my pre-season statements. We need to win against Clemson this week to consider this a successful season; we can talk about what else we need to do after that happens. Sure, we could make up for a loss to Clemson to a certain extent by beating Auburn and / or winning our bowl game; certainly if we won both I'd probably go back on whatever rant I might make in the event that we lose to the Purple Tigers. However, the importance of this game really can't be underestimated. We're at a point in this program's history when we need to put our best foot forward on the recruiting trail to cement our place as a team to be reckoned with in the SEC. Beating Clemson regularly is part of the proposition there, as doing so will help us convince young in-state talent that Carolina is the place to matriculate, not Clemson. I'm tired of seeing us always take a step back anytime we take one forward. How many times have we lost to an underdog immediately after a big win? This year's loss to Kentucky is only the latest in a long string of such losses. Make no mistake; Clemson is an inferior team this year, and if we lose to them, it's going to be taken as an indication that we haven't really turned the corner. Again, an SEC Title could reverse that sentiment, but aren't we ready to stop seeing a team that can't play its best each time it has a big game. Aren't we beyond that? For these reasons, this is a huge game.
So, what's your take on what we need to do to call the season successful?